Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

Mid-May and Mid-June 2007

Tip of the Month


A Tip that could SAVE YOUR LIFE

For the last six weeks Mary and I had been conducting our Arizona Digital Complete Nature Photo Courses and our Arizona High Speed Flash Hummingbird Shoots in the Santa Rita Mountains of southern Arizona. The mountains are surrounded by desert foothills, and these deserts are rich in wildlife, from roadrunners to rattlesnakes, geckos, scorpions, spiders, kangaroo rats, coyotes, and more. It's a great place to escape to when we need a break from the canyon, but the desert can be dangerous.

This year, I had a close call that would not have been fatal for me, but would have been awfully inconvenient and uncomfortable. However, had I been in a different location in the desert, or in a different desert -- like one of the side roads through remote Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the Arizona-Mexico border, this close call could have been more than a lesson for me, it could have been deadly dangerous.

Here's what happened, followed by the solution that could quite literally save your life.

I was driving through the desert west of the Santa Rita Mountains, on some very remote ranch roads. In two hours I encountered one pickup truck and one ATV. I stopped several times to look for reptiles, turning off the car before disembarking and hiking through the landscape. At my last stop, my wanderings brought me back to a main thoroughfare, a dirt track that was a shortcut to a highway on the eastern side of the Santa Ritas. When I returned to the car after my hike I turned on the engine, and tried to get my automatic transmission into gear. The gear shift would not move. I tried everything, wiggling, using force, second-guessing myself as I wondered if I was just having a brain-blank moment, but nothing worked. Luckily, a great couple drove by, I flagged them down, and got a lift into the town of Green Valley where I called the Ford dealership to arrange a tow.

In that conversation I asked the service guy if there was a workaround for my problem. As an afterthought, I told him that my ABS light (Automatic Braking System) was on, would that mean anything? He said it might, because the ABS switch can disengage the transmission. If that was the case, I could get the truck started if I turned the ignition switch one turn (it goes two 'clicks' when you go to start the engine), and with the ignition switch turned one click, you'll be able to move the gear shift (remember, I'm talking about an automatic transmission here) into neutral. Start the car in neutral, and when you do, you can then shift to any gear.

I borrowed a friend's car and drove out to my truck, did this, and it worked. From there, I drove back to Green Valley and dropped off the Ford (Mary drove our friend's vehicle back). Had I been on one of the roads I'd been on earlier, or had I driven down to Ajo and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where some of the roads are VERY remote, I'd have been in a life-threatening situation. I was in the desert, I'd drank all of my fluids because I was ready to call it a day, and, had I been on a remote road, no one may have discovered me for hours -- or days, in some of the places I've been.

I've talked to friends about this ABS trick, and they told me that they've had this happen to them, too, and had to resort to towing. So, apparently it is not an isolated occurance, and I pass this on because at the very least I may save you a tow, and at best, may save you from a life-threatening situation. Does this relate to photography? Of course it does, because we're often in remote spots and any trick that can get us out is important. So, remember this tip!


Our Past Photo Tips of the Month:


Framing with a Telephoto
Against a Desert Sunrise

Adobe Photoshop LIGHTROOM

A Great Insect Field Guide  

 ProShow Gold
Digital Slide Program

 Workflow and Workload -
You Can Keep Ahead

 New Lens Covers for
Long Lenses

 Action Wildlife Photography Camera Settings

 Bring along a Point N Shoot

 Liquids in your Levels -
TSA Warnings!

 Effective Cloning in Adobe CS2

 The Helicon Focus Filter Revisited

 Action Wildlife Photography Camera Settings

 Keep Your Head Up
 The Best All-Around Lens

 The Pond-A Must-See shooting Location in southern Arizona

 DIGITAL- Digital Birding

 DIGITAL -Shoot for the Future

 DIGITAL-Shoot for the Future, Part II

 Capture 1's Most Useful Features

maximizing depth of field digitally

  Backing Up Your Digital Files - you'll need more than you think

 DIGITAL Photographing scenes with extreme exposure values

 NPN- Nature Photography Network - a digital forum for nature photography

 Digital Pro Image Management Software

 Watch Your Backgrounds
The potential of composites or shooting in RAW format

 A Great Website for Information - the Singapore Nature Photography Society

 Save Your Equipment from Crashing!

 The L-Bracket, the ultimate camera bumper

At the Pulse of Life
by Fritz Polking

 Carry Your Gear!

 Shooting in Inclement Weather

 Carry-on Luggage for small commuter flights

 Visual Echos Tele-Flash for the 580EX Flash

 Ask Questions
Before You Go

 Seize the Moment!

Geared Focusing Rail for Macro Work 

 Protecting your long lens from SAND, the pleasures of beach photography

 How do we protect our gear from dust, and carry our gear when on safari

 The Ultimate Flash Bracket
Padding Your Wimberley
Tripod Head

  Specular highlights and the flashing frog
 Using TTL flash with Hummingbirds  Testing your Flash's Aim
Maximum Depth of Field and Hyperfocal Distance - they're not the same thing!  If you see it, it's too late -- a lesson in anticipation  How do you shoot the Moon?
  Low level tripod work  A great depth of field guide  Wimberley 400 and 600mm IS plate

 Sigma's 120-300mm F2.8 APO HSM zoom lens

 Using The Wimberley Gimbal head with a camera body

 Sigma's 120-300 f2.8 APO
zoom telephoto lens

 Custom Function 4-1 for Nikon and Canon shooters

 Sighting in a very, very long lens
 The Nature Photography Network - a super website for images and information
  Take a Workshop First   Luck, what is it?  Don't take in baby wild animals

  Airline Carry-On Luggage -Let your concerns be heard!

 Disconnect -- travel precautions

Photograph America Newsletter
 Wildlife Portraiture

 Obey the Rules
The Ti Chi Stalk
Photographing Critically Endangered Sites Bushnell Night Vision Optics  Adobe Photoshop 7 for $300

 The Sibley Bird Guides

 Removing Cactus Spines

 Drying out boots with newspaper

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Or FAX us at: (717) 543-6423.